I had hoped to get up to Crex during spring ice out but with 80 degree temperatures in March the ice went fast and I didn’t make it. This week I finally was able to make the trip. As I normally do I arrive in the late afternoon and tour the Meadows to see what is going on. After dinner I drive around again for some evening shots and hopefully some sunset shots. The next morning I go back out for some sunrise shots and spend the morning driving round.
There wasn’t a lot to see in the afternoon. I managed to capture some shots of various ducks mainly in Phantom Lake. There were quite a few Ring-necked Ducks along with some American Coots, Blue-winged Teal, Mallards and a nesting pair of Red-necked Grebes.
There were also lots of Canada Geese with their little ones all along the dike roads. As I approached they would run in every direction. They were growing fast and were starting to lose their yellow down. For some reason when I approached they always wanted to go to the other side of the road. I really had to be careful because the parents would walk across the road with most of the little ones but stragglers would keep popping out of the weeds and dash across the road.
As a drove south along Phantom Lake I noticed a beaver house and what looked like a beaver sitting along the water’s edge. There was enough vegetation so I couldn’t get a good look. After dinner I drove back to where I thought I had seen the beaver. Sure enough there was one swimming in the flowage alongside the dike road. I’m not sure what he was up to since he kept swimming back and forth but didn’t seemed to be engaged in any meaningful activity. After shooting for about ten minutes went to pick up my tripod and managed drag one leg in the road. This apparently startled the beaver and there was a loud sound as the beaver slapped its tail and went under.
As I walked back to the car I noticed a second beaver across the road. He seemed to be trying to figure out why the alarm was sounded by the first Beaver. Soon he went back to eating on a branch he had in the water. I watched him for another ten minutes before leaving. That evening I probably saw six or seven beaver.
In addition to the beaver there quite a few muskrats active in the flowages.
Sunset was a little disappointing. I thought it might be spectacular because there quite a few clouds but clear sky on the western horizon. I spent my time photographing the sunset along Dike 1 flowage. in this shot a group of Sandhill Cranes were captured with the sunset in the background.
In the morning my alarm didn’t go off but I manage to wake up only about 15 minutes later than I wanted to. As I drove out to the Meadows I could see it wasn’t going to be a spectacular sunrise so I picked a spot along Phantom Lake to photograph what there was to it.
I like to photograph reeds and flowers in the water on my visits to Crex. It was a little early for water flowers. The Pickerelweed and Lilly Pads were just emerging and there were only a few reeds up yet. A variety of flowers are also out now including Lupine, Hoary Puccoon, and Birds-foot Violets
As I was driving along one of the back roads I noticed something large and black along the road. It turned out to be a large black bear. This is the second year in a row that I’ve seen a black bear at Crex. Last year one ran out in front of the car and ran in front of the car for about 70 yards. He was going about 20 miles an hour. I had three cameras on the front seat and still managed not to get a photo. This year I had the presence of mind to get a quick shot through the windshield.
I also was lucky enough to see two pair of Sandhill Cranes with their chicks. In both cases they were walking along the dike roads. In the first instance I didn’t notice the chicks until both parents had crossed the road. The chicks then dashed out into the road following their parents. I watched them in the grass for a while but could only see brief glimpses of the chicks in the tall grass. All the time the parents were making a sound something like a cooing Morning Dove. I assume this was so the chicks could find them in the long grass.
The second pair were near the entrance to the dike road at Phantom Lake. I saw the parents trying to get across the road but another car was coming so one made it and the other did not. One of the parents walked along the road doing a killdeer routine pretending to be an injured bird. The other parented walked along the lake. When the second car left I could hear the one parent making the cooing sound so I waited and sure enough a couple of chicks came out of the grass along the road.
It was a good trip with my first shot of a Black Bear, Sandhill Crane Chicks and a Gopher.
More photos of Crex Meadows in the spring can be found on my website.